I probably don’t have to tell you this, but life as an educator is busy. It feels as though every time I complete a major project three more spring up to take its place. Whether you’re working with students in the classroom, or developing resources behind the scenes, there never seems to be enough space or time to cover everything you need. VAI’s Terra Tarango has compared this feeling to stuffing your mouth with gumballs,

If you were trying to put all the gumballs in your mouth, you’re not really going to be able to successfully enjoy all that is wonderful about a piece of bubblegum. Standards are the same way, if we try to tackle them all, we just simply can’t do that.

The result is that something is inevitably left on the back burner. Typically, educators drop the standards which don’t closely align with their learning goals, but how should they determine which ones should take precedent and which can be kept in reserve for later?

Taking Stock

Choosing what to focus on in the classroom is no easy task. After all, there are some 200 standards students are expected to master in 5th grade alone! Now, with the ongoing pandemic and the continued distance learning, this process has become infinitely more difficult. Luckily, there’s a simple method teachers can use to help them narrow down the list and identify their power standards.

A Power Standard is any standard which provides the most gain for your effort while also setting students up for success in the long term. By using Power Standards, educators can cover a lot of ground academically without sacrificing their personal learning goals. Here are three suggested qualifications for identifying a power standard:

  • Building Block: How much future learning is dependent on this standard? In order to help students develop a growth mindset, they need to be able to build on the knowledge of past lessons. Ask yourself if this standard will help students take a step toward bigger ideas.
  • Multidisciplinary: How applicable is this standard across content areas? Remember, the key to power standards is getting the most gain for your effort. Any standard which allows you to cover a lot of ground on multiple subjects is definitely worth your time.
  • Level of Thinking: What depth of thinking does this standard require? Having students memorize facts is not the same as learning. We want them to understand the information and apply it to modern problems. Power Standards should inspire student curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking!
Taking Score

If you’re an educator who thinks this sounds awesome but time consuming, well, you’re absolutely right! So, we took the time to do it for you. Van Andel Institute for Education has created a Standard Scoring Sheet for grades K-5 which can help you determine which standards best align with your teaching goals. Use this resource to quickly score content so you can identify which are most critical to students long-term success. Best of all, it’s completely FREE! Remember, not all standards are created equal, and your time is important. Use this tool to maximize your lessons and give yourself some space to breath.

We hope you are all staying healthy and safe during this difficult time. For more free educational resources, or ideas on how to promote healthy SEL, simply follow this link!